What Is A Knabstrup Horse? Facts, History, & More On This European Spotted Breed


The Knabstrup is a breed of horse from Denmark who is known for its beautiful spotted coat. These horses have ancient ancestry though they weren’t officially considered a breed until about 200 years ago.

What Is A Knabstrup?

A Knabstrup is a spotted horse that originated in Denmark. These horses are known for their spotted coats which they were bred for in the early days of this breed. These horses are unique compared to other European breeds because of the unique spotting that adorns their bodies. The modern-day Knabstrup has been improved with Thoroughbred blood to better its conformation as the early Knabstrups were bred only for their color causing their conformation to deteriorate with each breeding. These horses are average in size and stand between 15.2 and 16 hands high.

How Big Are Knabstrup Horses On Average?

Knabstrup horses are average in size for warmblooded horses and usually stand between 15.2 and 16 hands high. These horses aren’t heavily built either so they usually weigh in around 1,100 to 1,200 pounds.

What Colors & Patterns Can Knabstrup Horses Be?

The Knabstrup, unlike other spotted breeds, can only come in spot patterns. No purebred Knabstrup horse can be solid colored. The coat patterns that these horses can be are:

Blanket

A blanket marking is a white marking that covers the hindquarters, croup, and loins. If this marking is purely white, it can be considered a snow cap marking.

Spots

If a horse has random spotting in no apparent pattern, it would just be called spots. This would mean that there are a random arrangement of different colored spots all over the body.

Blanket With Spots

A blanket marking with spots would be a white marking on the hindquarters and an arrangement of white spotting over a base coat color.

Roan Blanket

A roan blanket is basically just a roan base coat with a white blanket marking on the horse’s hindquarters.

Roan Blanket With Spots

This marking or pattern is basically a blanket with spots that has a roan coat color as the base color. This would mean that there is a roan horse that has a white blanket pattern in it’s hindquarters and random spotting everyhwere else in its coat.

Snowflake

A snowflake coat pattern consists of a dark base coat with white spots. It looks as if it is snowing on the horse.

Leopard

In a leopard coat pattern, the base color of the coat is white and the coat is speckled with dark spots. This is the most common coat pattern seen in this breed.

Frost

A frost coat pattern is basically a dark coat with small white specks. This is kind of like the opposite of a flea-bitten horse.

The History Of The Knabstrup Horse

The Knabstrup’s history can be traced back to around 200 years though this breed’s ancestry goes back much further.

In the prehistoric times, there were horses with spotted coat patterns and it is thought that these horses were the first ancestors of this breed. Spotted horses were prized in different courts and kingdoms in the 1500s and the 1600s. Though early Knabstrup horses were seen around this time, the breed wasn’t created official until the 1800s.

The founding sire of this breed was descended from an Iberian mare from the Knabstrup Estate in Denmark and a Palomino Frederiksborg stallion. The resulting stallion was born with a gorgeous coat adorned with spots and colors. Because his coat patterns were so desired, he became an extremely popular stallion.

Because breeders of the Knabstrup horses were only focused on coat colors, the conformation and quality of these horses soon deteriorated and the popularity of the breed fell drastically. The breed nearly disappeared until recent intervention and attempts to restore the breed took place. Today, the Knabstrup is a popular riding horse and is frequently used in competitions and even in circuses.

Does The Knabstrup Horse Have Multiple Names?

The Knabstrup horse is also known as the Knabstrupper or the Knabstrupper horse. Knabstrupper is actually usually a more commonly seen name than Knabstrup.

How To Identify The Knabstrup

This horse is an easily identifiable breed. The traits that it can be identified by are this horse’s:

Head

The head of a Knabstrup horse is relatively large in relation to its body. The shape of its face and nose overall can be seen as either flat and straight or Roman in profile.

Ears

Knabstrup horses have small, alert, and pricked ears that are of a nice shape and set well on their large heads.

Muzzle

The muzzle of this breed is kind of square and boxy in shape and carries wide round nostrils. Compared to other breeds, the muzzle is relatively large as well.

Neck

The neck is usually straight and set high on the horse’s shoulders.

Back

Knabstrup horses have fairly long backs that follows back to slightly sloping hindquarters.

Legs

Hard, strong, and sound legs can be found on nearly any Knabstrup horse.

What The Knabstrup Excels In & What It’s Used For

Dressage

The Knabstrup is sometimes seen in the dressage arena. Sometimes, these horses are crossed with other warmbloods to create a flashy, spotted, dressage performance horse. These horses do great in this discipline not only because they stand out physically, but they also are pretty obedient and responsive.

Jumping

Jumping is one of the disciplines these horses are more commonly seen in. They stand out from other horses becasue of their coat making them more memorable to the judges. The Knabstrup’s cross back to the Thoroughbred makes them a great jumper, increasing their popularity as a riding and jumping horse.

General Riding

These horses do great just as general riding and pleasure horses. They are really a versatile breed making them good at whatever you set them to do.

Circus Performance Horse

The flashy appearance of this breed makes them extremely desirable in circuses. The shiny patterned coats of these horses put them at top demand for circus performance horses.

What Is The Average Lifespan Of A Knabstrup Horse?

These horses have an average lifespan for a horse their type and size. These horses live to be between 27 and 28 years of age, thougn some are known to reach well into their thirties if they are helthy and well taken care of.

Fun Facts On Knabstrup Horses

  • The most common use for a Knabstrup is general riding
  • Because these horses are really desired and sought after, they can cost between $5,000 and $11,000 on average. Some may fetch even more depending on their training, confirmation, and age.
  • The first Knabstrup horse came to America in the year of 2002
  • These horses almost died out because of their poor conformation and selective breeding. They were saved and improved with Thoroughbred blood

Hailey Johnson

Horses have been my passion ever since I can remember. At school, I was known as that weird horse girl, and I would read horse encyclopedias for fun. Over the years since those days, I have only learned more. My experiences with horses of a variety of breeds have taught me a lot. Now I want to share what I know with you!

Recent Posts